Work and Get a Degree

Find out how your students can work and study, without paying any tuition fees

Do your students want to earn a salary while getting their degree? 

They can if they decide to do a degree apprenticeship. They’ll combine academic study with on-the-job experience, enhancing their employment skills ready for a successful career.

And as degree apprenticeships were developed between the Government, employers and universities, there's no need for students to take out a tuition fee loan.

Find out more about degree apprenticeships, including entry requirements, how to apply and what degree apprenticeships your students can do.

Exploring degree apprenticeships as a post-18 pathway

CPD webinar

Find out what degree apprenticeships are, the funding options available and how students can apply for them.

Quickfire webinar summary

In this session, Paul Goldthorpe, who's a Senior Account Manager within our Degree Apprenticeship Team at Portsmouth, explores degree apprenticeships as a post 18 pathway for students.

Below is a quick summary of the key points discussed in the webinar. You can also download the transcript if you prefer.

Key takeaways for teachers and advisers

Degree apprenticeships were developed to help students learn useful skills that enhance their employability while getting a degree. They're suitable for anyone over 18, whether someone has just finished school or college or they're already well set in their career. The Government and your employer pay your tuition fees, so students won’t need to take out a tuition fee loan.

The numbers

Degree apprenticeships take 1–5 years to complete, depending on the course taken. Students will typically go to university 1 day a week for around 30 weeks every year. On the weeks they don't go to university, they'll still spend 20% of their time learning away from their normal working environment.

An apprentice’s starting salary would be around £16,000 per annum, but their wage will increase as the apprentice gains more occupational competency.

One of the most interesting differences of a degree apprenticeship, to tell the students you support, is that there isn't any student debt. That's important, because the prospect of paying back tuition fees can be off-putting to some people.

A large employer (wage bill of over 3 million a year) is already paying into a ring fenced fund that can only be spent on apprenticeships. So they will pay for the apprenticeship out of their apprenticeship levy.

For smaller businesses they are able to get 95% of the tuition fees of the apprenticeship funding paid for by the government.

So the size of the business has no difference in the outcome for the individual, either the government and the employer or the employer through the apprenticeship levy will pay for the apprenticeship training.

Other benefits
  • Practical experience that helps enhance a student's CV
  • Access to extensive academic and personal support
  • More flexible learning and a salary
  • Improved position against other graduates, as they'll have that extra differential of workplace experience when they get their degree

The changes in 2015/16 saw the control of apprenticeships handed over to the employers. Employers would develop the apprenticeship standards going forward.

This is linked to key knowledge, skills and behaviours as highlighted from the industry that apprentices need to have to be occupationally competent. Because of that, many salaries of these job roles, especially degree level, have  increased. There's no longer an apprentice doing menial jobs.

In basic terms, an apprentice is the marriage of qualifications and experience and experience can be delivered in the workplace with the qualifications delivered by a training provider such as the University of Portsmouth.

Some useful facts:

  • There are over 80 universities which are on the government's register of approved training providers
  • A degree from an apprenticeship is exactly the same as the degree that a traditional undergraduate student would obtain
  • At the University Portsmouth, we use our traditional undergraduate programme as a vehicle to drive our apprenticeships
  • We look at the knowledge, skills and behaviours which have been put in place from the apprenticeship standard and look at our undergraduate or postgraduate degree programmes and see which is the best match.
  • It's a real job so it comes with a real contract of employment: sick pay, holiday, benefits (varying by the employer)
How much time is spent off-the-job?

As per new apprenticeship standards, the apprentice must spend 20% percent of their time off the job.

That 20% needs to be at an institution for lectures and  seminars but it could also be spent within the workplace though - either gaining new skills, knowledge or behaviours which attribute back to that apprenticeship standard.

Even in summer and Easter breaks, the employer is still expected to provide 20% off- the-job, even though the apprentice may not be going to a college or university.

The main difference is that a traditional undergraduate will study full time while a degree apprentice will be in employment at the same time. In addition:

  • Degree apprenticeships come with a professional status alongside them – so the apprentice can obtain a status which you can only get from the workplace.
    • For example, the apprentices at the end of our Business and Leadership Chartered Manager degree apprenticeship will get 3 qualifications – their chartered management status, degree and apprenticeship.
  • The employer selects the university so the UCAS process is flipped on its head. Typically, the employer will meet somebody from a university, such as myself, and they’ll look through the modules and the learning outcomes of the degree programmes to see if they match.
  • Depending on the people that are delivering the programmes and the specialisms within them, there may be elements that are better suited to an employer, through one university or another.
  • The student will very rarely apply to the university first. The employer will usually have a partner university that they will deliver the courses with.

February is a good time to be looking at larger employers who are looking to recruit in September. There's lots of large employers (BAE, BBC) who are looking to recruit now in the UCAS window.

Amazing Apprenticeships is a great website and they do a snapshot of degree level apprenticeship vacancies and links to where you can apply for them.

Small employers often don’t know if they’ll need somebody in September. It's not uncommon for a small business to call up my team in June and say ‘we'd really like to recruit an apprentice for a September start’.

Back up plan

We'd recommend that students regularly check who is recruiting and don’t always consider that UCAS deadline. Because DA’s are so competitive and the deadlines all over the place, I’d also recommend that students look at traditional degrees as well. It’s a really good idea to have a back up plan just in case the degree apprenticeship element doesn't work out.

90% of all of our starts fall into the traditional academic year, September start, summer, finish. However, we do have a couple of apprenticeships which start, in January.

And the postgraduate teacher apprenticeship is looking to start in June, in the summer term at least. We work very closely with BAE in Portsmouth who have 8 apprentices that are starting with us this year. They go out to recruit in the summer, start the apprentices in September and embed them into the organisation between September before they start their course in January.

If you can stress anything to the people you support it would that degree apprenticeships require a massive amount of research. If the student doesn’t enjoy 80% of the time at work, it’s going to make that 20% of the time that they’re studying at university even harder. So, recommend that they:

  • Look at the job specification carefully, what are they offering?
  • Research the future opportunities within that business as well.
  • Research the company’s ethos and working practices
  • Speak or network with current employees if it’s possible, through things like LinkedIn

Published by the House of Commons in August 2020:

  • There are currently 742,000 people participating in apprenticeships, with 390,000 apprenticeships started in 2018/19
  • There’s been had 91,100 apprenticeship starts in the 1st quarter of the 2020/21 year (which for the House of Commons is August through to 3 months up into the December holiday period) 
  • 33% percent of those were higher or degree apprenticeship starts

There's a number of incentives which the government want to continue to drive numbers higher. For example ,employers, depending on the age of the apprentice, can be awarded grants and further financial support in order to take on apprentices.


Apprenticeships have been around for 100s of years. And because of that, there can be confusion around what the levels equate to, and where apprentices should start on their journey. There's 4 grouped areas of apprenticeships, intermediate, advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships. And the new standards mean that an apprentice can work their way right the way through all these levels, should the pathway be available to them in that particular profession.


Intermediate apprenticeships are in line with GCSEs.


Advanced apprenticeships are aligned as a level 4-7, covering everything from HNC, HND and higher and degree apprenticeships at level 6 and 7.

There's an overlap, which is one of the reasons that it can be confusing. Something to consider when advising students is not to get hung up on the level of the apprenticeship.

Some students may need to go sideways towards a level 3 apprenticeship to get where they want to be. And that's ok. As a real example of this: we have a number of apprentices that joined our civil engineering degree apprenticeship, which is a level 6 qualification, but they've just come from a level 3 construction apprenticeship.

The place where all apprenticeship opportunities need to be published is on the Find an Apprenticeship website, which is a Government website. Creating a profile on means students can get the website to work for them, emailing them if there's any opportunities that fall into the areas that they've put into the search box.

Using UCAS

UCAS have launched a career finder area of their website. If students that you're supporting are looking at both apprenticeships and traditional degrees, then they can look for both of them in the same place with UCAS.

Employer websites

It's also worth looking at their employer websites. At the University of Portsmouth, we also add any vacancies onto our website. So if there's a particular university that they're interested in studying at, it might be worth contacting their apprenticeships team.

There's now over 700 different apprenticeship standards that have been approved for delivery. And of those 700 and something standards, 180 of those are at degree and master's level. This is just a snapshot of some of the opportunities available. One thing which hasn't slowed, was the approval of new apprenticeships in 2020-21, with the latest new apprenticeship being approved just last month, which was a Senior People Professional Apprenticeship, which is aimed at HR individuals at level 7.

We've got a significant number of apprenticeships and a significant number of apprentices at the University of Portsmouth across all 5 of our faculties and the police constable apprenticeship is one that we particularly we're particularly proud of. We launched that not so long ago and the architecture apprenticeships have been recently launched. So there is a whole host of areas from business to creative and into the sciences and so on from there.

Next at Portsmouth

We're then looking at a teacher apprenticeship. Nursing is something that we're constantly looking at and cyber security and digital technology which are popular at the moment. Also media and journalism. I was also at a meeting recently where we're starting to look at an electromechanical engineer apprenticeship, possibly partnering with some of the local colleges on that as well. We'll release more information across our Degree Apprenticeship pages on our website.

Degree apprenticeships are very competitive. As the student doesn't pay any tuition fees, it does mean that there are lots and lots of applications. Predicted and actual grades need to be strong but saying, ‘I got two A's and a B at A level, so I meet the entry requirements’, isn't enough. Work experience is great to have on an application or anything practical which relates to the job/degree they’re applying for. Wider reading around a degree area or additional learning courses is also ideal.

Absolutely, and we'd recommend it. There's no limits on the amount of apprenticeships students can apply for. They could apply for 15-20 even more apprenticeships if they wanted to, as well as their UCAS applications. And because the landscape of apprenticeships is so competitive, and because student fees are paid for them, the applicant numbers are huge. So having a backup plan of having a traditional application for UCAS is a really good idea.

That’s right, however, the university information is listed on the ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ website. So, there's also an option for training providers. For the vacancies we work on at Portsmouth, we put information about the course itself. Where it says ‘training provider details’, it will have my phone number and email address on there. So whilst students can't choose who the employee is going with, they'll know exactly which university it is that they are working with.

We offer a lot of support to our apprentices. It's important for students to know that while they’ll spend most of their time with them in the workplace, they'll also get heaps of support from us:

  • Each apprentice will have a dedicated workplace mentor – either their line manager or somebody else in the organisation, and some larger organisations now have apprenticeship consultants who act as the mentors.
  • Students will get a personal tutor within the university.
  • Our degree apprenticeship team has strong relationships with business. We're constantly talking to our local businesses and beyond about what they need next, what they feel could be where the skill gaps are within their organisation.
  • We're a dedicated apprenticeship team and we sit centrally, we don't belong to any particular faculty. We're here to help with things like funding, contractual agreements and the red tape which goes along with that.

Support for students

Share these links with your students to learn more about degree apprenticeships and to browse our courses.

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